Q&A with Kit Foster: July 24, 2014

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Q. I have a pair of headlight assemblies and I cannot figure out what car they came from. They are electric driving lights with lenses from the Warner-Patterson Co. of Chicago, and have raised sections on the glass. I cannot find any markings on the assembly body. It appears the headlights are duo, set up for parking lights, too. My dad and grandfather had these headlights. They had a 1914 Model T, 1924 Model T Touring, a 1916 Overland 83, a 1923 Jordan, a 1932 Buick. They sold these cars and the parts to go with them. These lights remained in the garage and are now mine. It sure would be nice to know their history.

— Laurie Spainhower Anderson, via e-mail

A. Old headlights can be difficult to identify, because the automakers purchased them from so many different suppliers, and changed suppliers with some regularity. I have feeling the brackets might be the better clue to the car they came from. I consulted Donald Axelrod of Lynn, Mass., whose business Headlight Headquarters has been supplying lights to car collectors for many years. He said much the same thing, but with some specific thoughts: “No way to tell. I have not had any calls for a light that used that style of mounting bracket, where the yokes curve back to mount on an upright surface. I have seen them curve to the side, but most point straight down like the letter “Y.”  I am sure that they are only for one particular make of car…They are very early electric lights, 1913-14-15. So one thing is for sure, the Warner Patterson lenses are wrong! That particular lens was patented much later than the lights. In fact those lights might have come from the factory with clear curved window glass, no particular design. Later safety standards may have required the owner to add a lens with a pattern to reduce the glare…They also were original equipment for some cars and trucks, but also were available as aftermarket in a variety of sizes. Do not consider the lens as an identifying factor to recognize the lights. I think the mounting bracket is unique, most likely a rare old car with very low production or low survival.”

Maybe one of our readers can identify the brackets. That would at least suggest what car, authentically or not, last used them.

 

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Q. Old Cars Weekly, June 5 Q & A, shows a photo of an unidentified light. The photo was submitted by Herb Stuesse of Sheboygan Falls, Wis. I have the same light on my 1934 Brewster convertible sedan. My light is amber instead of red. Since Brewsters were all custom-built, the turn signal light was probably an accessory that could be mounted on any make. It is controlled by a unique lever mounted on the steering column.

— Curt Roth, via e-mail

A. Fascinating. Your Brewster is one of a small number of cars built by the renowned coachbuilder during the 1930s, most on Ford V-8 chassis and characterized by “flying” front fenders and heart-shaped grilles. However, I’ve also seen Brewster convertible sedans without that type of light, so it might have been specified by the original owner or added later. Gene Schneider wrote to say that he recognizes it as an aftermarket item from the late 1940s or early ’50s, which suggests it was added later. In any case, it looks like it belongs and I’m sure it’s helpful in today’s traffic.

 

To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

 

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